Wine News – March 2008

By Franz Scheurer


Katnook Estate Founders Block Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Sauvignon Blanc from Coonawarra is often overlooked and to my palate it’s wonderfully fresh, zesty, herbaceous and eminently drinkable. Citrus aromas translate to gooseberry and peach flavours and a moreish, long finish begs for more of the same. Coonawarra experienced severe spring frosts in 2007, keeping the yields low, adding to the depth and complexity of the wines.

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Lou Miranda Estate Old Vine Shiraz 2005

Lou Miranda just turned 60 and he reckons he might just have made the best wine of his life. He underwent conversion from the flagon port and bulk wines of his family’s winery at Griffith to premium Barossa reds in the 1990s and I must say that his Old Vine Shiraz 2005 is a wonderful wine. It is unmistakably Barossa: big, bold and beautiful. A total of 3,500 bottles were made from the low yielding bush vines, crushed at Rowland Flat and matured in French and American oak for 24 months. The wine is deep crimson with aromas of blackberries, cassis and vanilla. On the palate it is spicy, mouth-filling (14.5% a/v) and briary with supple tannins holding it all together. Finish is long and spicy. I love this wine, anytime, anywhere, with food or without.

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Finlandia Grapefruit Fusion

This grapefruit flavoured vodka from Finland is an amazing drink. It excels as a mixer (try 50ml Finlandia Grapefruit Fusion with the juice of half a lime, 50ml sugar syrup and lots of ice) and as a stand-alone (try it at room temperature in a shot glass to preserve all the flavours). To my palate this is the most exciting flavoured vodka released on the Australian market. Distilled in Finland in continuous stills with barley that has never seen any insecticides (the cold climate eliminates their use) with filtered Finish glacier water and natural fruit flavours this is a vodka worth seeking out.

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Vercoe’s Vineyard Verdelho 2006

Vercoe’s wines hail from the Hunter Valley and offer something a bit different. Prue Vercoe and her team are individualists and this comes through in their wines. We have not really found a ‘style’ for Verdelho in Australia but this wine is good and I hope it will become a trendsetter. A definite green tinge distinguishes it immediately and spicy, tropical fruit aromas tickle your nose. On the palate it is fruit-forward, soft and caressing with the tropical fruit confirmed and held together by a refreshing crispness. Drink it cool but not ice cold and try it with dishes lashed with chilli. It will not only stand up to the heat, but excel.

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Jack Daniels Single Barrel

It is commendable that a distillery as large as Jack Daniels makes a single barrel whisky. Usually barrels are selected by Master Distiller Jimmy Bedford, but now there’s an opportunity for anyone to own their own barrel. If you’re taking a trip to the USA you can visit Jack Daniels Distillery and buy a single barrel, yielding about 250 bottles (depending on the angel’s share) complete with an inscribed brass medallion for each bottle, a framed collage of images and an inscribed brick that is embedded into a wall at the distillery for anyone to see from now to eternity. This is a very individual and fun offer and it works out to less than $60 per bottle. 

For more information contact Kate Mansour at Brown-Forman Australia on 02 9764 8711


Carlei Tre Amici 2005

Sergio Carlei understands passion and he intuitively knows how to blend different varieties to create a great wine. His Tre Amici (Three Friends) is a Super Tuscan inspired blend of 70% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot and it works! It shows all the food wine qualities of an Italian wine, but it is reinforced by the power of Cabernet Sauvignon and tamed by the softness of Merlot. Savoury and smoky on the nose these aromas are confirmed on the palate with the addition of rich, mouth-filling textures and a long, briary finish. This is a wine that loves food (try it with fresh pasta and rabbit ragout) and it will benefit from further ageing. It is bottled under cork.

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Hibiscus Fusion

Rarely is something that tastes good also healthy but Hibiscus Fusion is full of antioxidants, vitamin C and riboflavin. It’s a good drink on its own, over ice, a non-alcoholic thirst quencher with a flavour that is quite adult and not too sweet. It’s available in Hibiscus Fusion, Hibiscus Fusion with Vanilla, and Hibiscus Fusion with Guava. The drink is made from an extract of the Hibiscus Sabdariffa flowers, which are imported from West Africa, but the drink is entirely made in Australia. Hibiscus Fusion comes into its own when used as a mixer. Its flavours are a natural companion to spirit and the possibilities are endless. Read the label and be surprised at all the nasties that are NOT in it, e.g. Hibiscus Fusion & Guava contains water, infusion of hibiscus leaves, guava and fructose. A nice way to start a healthy habit!

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The Balvenie Rose

Only 426 bottles exist of this limited edition Speyside whisky inspired by the romantic history of Balvenie Castle. At this stage it is only available from the distillery even though we believe that four bottles will make it Down Under, probably in June, at a price of around £400. The Balvenie Rose is a 16 y/o Single Malt, finished in port casks, giving the whisky its distinguishing rose hue. Keep your eyes peeled!

(Note: the taste profile of this whisky is quite different from the Port Wood Balvenie that’s easily available for under £100).


Wileys Creek Liqueur Muscat

Silos Estate who make this fabulous Muscat hail from the South Coast, just a few minutes drive south of Berry. Silos Estate is an extensive winery, winery restaurant and wedding reception place. They make wines under the Silos Estate and Wileys Creek labels and the Liqueur Muscat is made from late harvest grapes with minimal interference, aged for no less than four years. It’s honest, down to Earth, fruity and ‘grapey’. It happily stands on its own or serve it with something smoky and savoury, e.g. smoked eel.

Silos Estate

B640 Princess Highway

Jaspers Brush NSW 2535

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Tuaca is a classic Italian liqueur, sweet, nutty, citrussy with a hint of vanilla. It’s flavour profile is not that different to Spain’s Licor 43 but it is considerably less cloying. Made in Tuscany using aged brandy and local fruit essences, it happily stands on its own as an after dinner shot and it’s great as an Affogato ingredient. Legend has it that it was invented by Lorenzo the Magnificent, an Italian ruler in the renaissance who was a patron to Michelangelo and Botticelli, though, as far as we know, it was always made by the Tuoni family. Tuaca is very good value at RRP $ 37.99 and if you have a sweet tooth this might be for you.

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Bordeaux Dinner

John Baker of Bordeaux Shippers teams up with Matt Kemp and his team at Balzac for a terrific Bordeaux dinner. Matt’s food needs no introduction and John’s wines are all sourced from cold European cellars and have excellent provenance. He will show 10 different wines on the night, prove to you that an elegant red wine can work well with fish and is looking forward to your reaction to wines like the 1983 Mouton or a Rivesaltes from 1947 (which was only bottled two years ago)

Tuesday 8th April

Host:  John Baker of Bordeaux Shippers, Specialist Bordeaux Importer

7.00 for 7.30pm, Cost: $225 p/person

For enquires please call the restaurant on (02) 9399 9660 between 10am to 5pm on Thursdays or Fridays or email


Texture Restaurant and Champagne Bar

Unfortunately our market is just not big enough to sustain something quite like this, but London’s is. If you are visiting London this place is a must see (and be seen in). Texture Restaurant and Champagne Bar opened in September last year and now they have just launched a bar menu. Texture Restaurant and Champagne Bar boast one of the most extensive Champagne list in the world with over ninety Champagnes and Sparkling wines listed (even some English ones!) they have a point. I like the fact that the list not only explains Champagne as a region but also deals with cellaring and ageing. Aggi Sverrisson and Xavier Rousset were head chef and head sommelier respectively under Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir and it was there that they created a vision for a new restaurant where food and wine would have equal importance. The food is engaging - simple yet beautifully presented and light with an engaging blend of flavours. The majority of 300 plus different wines are from either small or not your ‘run of the mill’ producers. The bar has quickly become one of London’s hot spots. Dishes available in the bar include Pickled Icelandic Herring, Smoked Salmon Confit, Icelandic Cod Brandade and Caviar. For those just wanting a quick snack dishes like Bacon Popcorn or a selection of cheeses might hit the spot. So you want Dom 1996 or Krug Collection 1985 or maybe a Cuvée Winston Churchill 1979? No problems, coming right up!

For more information:

Texture Restaurant & Champagne Bar

34 Portman Square

London, W1H 7BY, United Kingdom

+44 20 72240028


Carlei Estate Tre Rossi 2005

Blending varieties is the norm rather than the exception in the old world and Sergio Carlei uses Shiraz (60%), Barbera (30%) and Nebbiolo (10%) to make his Tre Rossi. It’s wonderfully fragrant on the nose with a gritty, feral bite on the palate and unmistakeably a food wine. It’s a combination of the Shiraz’s savouriness, blended with the plum fruit forwardness of the Barbera and the tar and roses of the Nebbiolo, all held together by fine structured tannins and a healthy acidity. I love this wine especially with some simple fare like a loaf of fresh crusty bread, some spicy horse salami and some olives.

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Shochu is a distilled Japanese spirit, different to the more well known brewed sake (rice wine), and umeshu (plum wine), and puts the rough with the smooth under one description. Shochu is not as high in alcohol as most other countries distilled liquids (between typically 25% a/v and a maximum of 45% a/v) and it is fast becoming the darling of some of the more adventurous bartenders. In many countries outside Japan we still tend to treat Shochu with a fair amount of suspicion and it’s time this attitude changed. Shochu is mainly made in Kyushu and western Honshu where the weather is considerably warmer as Sake calls for cooler temperatures.  Shochu is made from sweet potatoes, rice, buckwheat and barley, each giving it a very distinctive aroma and flavour. Iichiko is distilled from barley, which generally produces the smoothest Schochu. Iichiko is 25% a/v, best drunk cold and it works very well as a mixer or a stand alone. The nose is sweet, slightly floral, reminiscent of a meadow in spring and it immediately coats every nook and cranny of your mouth. The sweetness is confirmed on the palate and a mixture of heather, roses, violets and barley sugar fight for your attention. Finish is long, sweet then slowly fading into something slightly bitter like arnica root. This Shochu is worth searching for and if you’re a frequent traveller to Japan you have probably already tried it.


Grampians Winemakers Reserve Shiraz 2006

This is both an interesting and a terrific wine, showing off the Grampians terroir. Blended by Simon Clayfield of Clayfield Wines from 13 different wines, donated by winegrowers in the Grampians, this is a wine with a strong spicy nose and restrained fruit with dark, woody undertones on the palate. This is a meaty, musky wine that will no doubt improve with age and you can buy a whole barrel of it if you win the auction on 3rd May, part of the 2008 Grampians Grape Escape promotion. How would you like to own 300 bottles of this terrific wine? This is your chance!

The Grampians Escape 2008 will be open from 11.00am to 4.30pm. For more information and tickets to the Festival Dinner go to:

Tel.: 1800 065 599


Bushmills Irish Whiskey 1608 Anniversary Edition

2008 is Bushmills' 400th anniversary since they were given the grant to distil. That’s a terrific history to look back on (although maybe a little ambitious) and according to the rather schmick packaging, after granting Sir Thomas Phillips the licence to distil ‘uisce beatha’ within the territory called Rowte in County Antrim, Bushmills fell into the hands of smugglers in 1743 but it was the year 1784 when the Old Bushmills Distillery was officially registered as a company and the pot still became its trade mark. In 1890 the S.S. Bushmills, the distillery’s steamship made its maiden voyage across the Atlantic to deliver Bushmills Whiskey to America. In 1942 the distillery was partly converted to accommodate American and other Allied forces and in 2008 we are glad to report that the unique whisky making tradition lives on at Ireland’s oldest working distillery.

The whisky is bottled at 46% a/v, non chill-filtered and it’s an attractive dark amber in colour with a nose of juniper berries, Demerara sugar and roses. It’s a blend with no age statement (my guess would be 80% Bushmills Single Malt and 12 y/o), matured in sherry butts and unusually, made with Crystal malt. On the palate it is immediately mouth-filling without any unpleasant alcohol heat. It’s quite oily with biscuity and short bready flavours of the malt asserting themselves. Strong toffee notes and nutty undertones try unsuccessfully to hide the floral top notes and the finish is long and satisfying. This is a terrific whiskey and if you can get your hands on a bottle then I suggest you do! Bushmills 1608 is sold in key markets and travel retails and I expect it to sell out fast.

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Fix St James

Good wine bars are rare in Sydney and it’s great to see that Fix St James has just celebrated one year of offering a haven of choice to wine aficionados.

Chef Kristin McGuirk’s menu is solid and dishes like ‘Insalata Caprese' Ox-Heart Tomato, Buffalo Mozarella & Bush Basil’ or ‘Clarence River Gamberini w/ Chilli Oil & Lemon’ shine in the apparent simplicity. Being an incurable carnivore items like ‘Seared Duck Livers on Toasted Brioche w Parsley Purée’ present the perfect opportunity to drink a Pinot Noir.

Fix St James is now open on Saturday nights! Following the groundswell of interest in CBD wine bars and the continuing push to make Sydney an international city, Sommelier-Proprietor Stuart Knox has decided that Saturday evenings in the city can support another venue. Fix St James offers three distinct sections for the evening - outdoor alfresco seating, downstairs wine bar and upstairs restaurant – so what are you waiting for?

Fix St James, 111 Elizabeth Street, Sydney or to book call (02) 9232 2767